There are many factors that affect joint pain. Environment, genetics, diet, injury, and age all play a role. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the most common types of joint pain that occur in the United States and manifests mostly as arthritis, what is most likely to cause it, and what can be done to treat it.
The undisputed number one cause of joint pain would be arthritis, this is mostly characterized by pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the affected joint. It also has many different subtypes:
The Condition: This is a degenerative condition that occurs mostly due to age, but obesity and injuries to the affected joint(s) also plays a significant role, affecting roughly 10% of the population. Your cartilage (your body’s shock absorber where your bones connect) slowly disappears, making your bones rub together. Causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the affected joint.
Treatments: For the most part, the damage from this condition is permanent and only the symptoms can be treated. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and similar) effectively treats mild types of osteoarthritis. Non-steroid anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen and similar) are another common treatment but do carry risk for side effects such as upset stomach, damage to the liver and kidneys. Topical anti-inflammatories such as cortisone cream have been shown to help mitigate these side effects. CBD has also been shown to be effective for relief, which we carry and offer to our patients here at Integrated Orthopedics.
In more advanced or severe cases, steroid, and non-steroid injections along with surgery and physical therapy have proven the most effective. However, there have been promising results from platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell treatments in regenerating joint tissue, which we have administered and seen positive results at Integrated Orthopedics.
The Condition: An auto-immune disease where the body attacks itself, in this case the joints, and affects 1.5 million Americans. This condition carries almost all the same symptoms as osteoarthritis, but is characterized by nodules appearing at the joints, symmetrical pattern (if one hand is affected more than likely the other one is), and often affects multiple joints.
Treatments: The symptoms can be treated similarly to osteoarthritis; however, drainage of the nodules might be necessary. Immunosuppressive therapy has been gaining ground in minimizing the body’s ability to attack itself as well.
The Condition: Another type of autoimmune disease, but this one can carry a double punch. Close to one third of those with psoriasis (painful skin plaques form at the joints such as the fingers, elbows, and knees) also develop associated joint pain symptoms like rheumatoid arthritis, minus the nodules.
Treatments: There is no known cure for this condition, the treatments for the symptoms are like rheumatoid arthritis. There are some additional measures such as an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce psoriatic flairs, and biologics (medications that block certain proteins).
The Condition: Intense and acute joint pain that affects almost 4 million Americans. This disease will most commonly occur in your big toe but can present itself in the ankles, knees, fingers, or wrist. This is caused by a buildup of urate crystals (which itself is caused by high levels of uric acid) in the affected joint, making the joint larger and inflamed. This usually occurs because of one’s diet and has been historically named as the “disease of the kings” because high levels of alcohol and rich meats is the primary cause.
Treatments: Though gout pain tends to be acute and short lived, usually lasting 7-10 days, leaving it untreated can have high damaging effects on the liver and kidneys. Removing rich meats and high purine foods, like organ meats and oily fish, from your diet and reducing the consumption of alcohol are going to be the most effective and long-term solution.
The pain symptoms can be treated with methods used for osteoarthritis and might include medications such as Xanthine oxidase which reduces the production of uric acid.
For both rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout, you will likely need to schedule a visit with a rheumatologist, who specializes in these autoimmune forms of arthritis. Here are some guidelines on when to see an orthopedic doctor or a rheumatologist for arthritis.
Besides arthritis, what are the most common compounding factors that contribute to it and what can you do to reduce them?
The most common types of injuries that lead to joint pain are going to be below the waist which includes hips, knees, and ankles. Which makes sense because they are the most load bearing joints and are most prone to wear and tear. Acute damage to any of these joints raises the risk of arthritis manifesting itself.
For the average person the best way to mitigate joint injury is a bone healthy diet, regular low impact exercise, and avoiding repetitive motions that stress the joint.
For the more high-physical performance individuals make sure to focus on stretching AFTER working out. Also avoid high repetitive exercises that stress the joint and focus on cross-training to encourage full body strength, and don't forget to warm up.
Since we already touched on how your diet can contribute to your joint pain symptoms, why don’t we dive into the foods that can help. We can’t tell you how to eat since dietary needs can vary wildly and you should talk to your doctor before completely changing your diet (especially if you are diabetic), there are generally accepted foods that will lower joint inflammation risk such as:
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon
- Seeds and Nuts, which are also are rich in omega 3
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts
- Fruits with color for their antioxidants
- Root vegetables and garlic
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
Unfortunately, we cannot stop or totally reverse the effects of time. The only ways to reduce the degrading effects of age on the joints is a healthy diet, regular exercise, quit smoking, and modest to no consumption of alcohol.
There are many other factors that can contribute to joint pain and this guide was just to inform you of the most common. For a more comprehensive diagnosis please consult a physician so that you can avoid the need for joint surgery or joint replacement.
If you are in need of a more comprehensive approach to joint pain, feel free to contact us and see what Integrated Orthopedics can do for you.